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Christy Collins

Thoughts on books, films, writing and life

Kimonos and selfie sticks, the temples of Higashiyama

Arashiyama

Arashiyama was swarming with tourists and so it wasn’t the mystical place I had been imagining, but the temple gardens were stunning and the bamboo forest was still rather beautiful despite the noisy throngs of selfy-stick carrying tourists.

Okayama

Okayama was our base for visiting Naoshima Art Island but the city itself has a lot to offer, not least the demi-glazed katsu don which we happily sampled in the evening. No doubt Okayama is even more beautiful when the sun come out!

Hitting Osaka for dinner

We took a quick side trip to Dontonbori for dinner, even though Osaka wasn’t on our hit list for this trip, because JR passes seem to make us train-happy. The food here is incredible but the Okonomiyaki at Chuo and the egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery are my highlights from this trip. I think the beautiful Hokkaido seafood has dampened my enthusiasm for ‘chain’ sushi anywhere else. (I’m hoping this affliction proves reversible once I get home!)

Himeji Castle and a little bit of sakura fever

Settling in

I’ve now been at Tenjinyama Art Studio for two weeks. I have a firm handle on which pair of shoes are best for tackling the snow and now, rather quickly it seems, everything is beginning to thaw. Tomorrow night I’m headed south to Kansai to see the cherry blossoms and meet up with Mr K for a week; when I get back I’m sure the park will look quite different.

I’ve got into a fairly regular rhythm of writing in the mornings and venturing out into the world in the afternoon, whether just for groceries or to see a museum or to walk around the city. In the evenings I’m either relaxing with the other artists here, reading or returning to the writing. I feel very lucky to be able to organize my time completely around my writing.

I had also hoped to be plunging in to Japanese film but this is proving challenging logistically without speaking the language. Last night I signed up to the local Netflix but almost nothing there has English subtitles. I may have to wait until I’m home to do this part of the work. My local library has a good selection of Japanese film, and Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) usually has a strong Asian line up, so this will be a good project for the winter months on my return.

Artists’ Residency, Sapporo

A week ago I arrived in a very snowy Sapporo to begin my Asialink residency at Tenjinyama Art Studio. I will be here for twelve weeks in total which will include a little bit of travel in Kansai and Hokkaido. Time seems to be going by very quickly already but so far I have been settling in, feasting on the local food and finding my way around. By now I have a subway pass, some cute sticky notes in the shape of Japanese mountains, a pillow and half a notebook full of notes that I hope will prove to be the start of a new novel. Outside my window it is snowing which is beautiful but I am also using it as an excuse not to venture outside of the studio today except maybe later for a hot sweet potato from the shop at the bottom of the hill here.

Thanks to Tenjinyama, Asialink Arts and the Malcolm Robertson Foundation for this wonderful opportunity.

The Stella Prize

In a few days the Stella Prize shortlist will be announced. A perfect opportunity to boost your reading of books by Australian women surrounded by the excitement and buzz around this prize. I followed the announcement of the longlist, on twitter, from home with a celebratory gin and tonic to hand. I plan to do similarly with the shortlist. Literary prizes are strange things and though I have sometimes been disappointed by the Stella lists (more by what was left off them, than what was on them), I very much admire the amount of interest, and the sense of celebration of books by women, that the team have managed to generate in the few years the prize has been running. Following the Stella is also a great way to encounter new books especially if you, like me, mostly read novels because the prize includes short stories, memoirs and non-fiction in its remit. This year in particular there seem to be a high proportion of non-fiction offerings on the list.

I’m excited to see who makes the shortlist next week. Good luck to everyone on the longlist!

Interview: Katherine Johnson

I recently interviewed Katherine Johnson about her new novel, The Better Son.

Katherine is a Tasmanian author and a fellow PhD student at the University of Tasmania. Her book is a fast-paced, sometimes claustrophobic, read and it brings to life a small corner of Tasmania, which she had a very interesting time researching.

If you are looking for a novel about families that never drops its pace, this is the book for you. I read it in a single day.

The full text of the interview is on the Australian Women Writers Challenge website.

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